If you use WordPress to power your business website, you may know that a major update was released for the platform at the end of 2018. WordPress Version 5 comes with some major feature changes and, as a result, a bit of a learning curve. For this reason, WordPress users have been allowed to upgrade at their own pace.
However, as with other software, failing to upgrade in a timely manner can be risky. After all, a website is never really done! If you’re still using WordPress 4, now is the time to prepare for an upgrade.
What’s New in WordPress 5?
The biggest difference between WordPress 5 and older versions of WordPress is the way webmasters experience editing. The new block editor, also known as Gutenberg, allows users to arrange content using designated blocks (headline, paragraph, image, etc.) and columns, rather than a single content area. Blocks can be dragged and dropped to reorder content, and each block type can be easily changed. This style of editing allows users to more easily create robust content while maintaining the website’s visual consistency and mobile-friendliness.
Note that the WordPress platform, for now at least, does not require use of the block editor in order to upgrade to version 5. A plugin is available that allows website managers to continue using the classic editor through 2021.
In addition to the new block editor, WordPress 5 also comes with a host of security updates that protect your website against hackers and cyber attacks. These updates make your website less likely to experience downtime and less vulnerable to theft or corruption of any customer information you might collect through payment or contact forms.
Steps to Take Before You Upgrade to WordPress 5
Your website is an important part of your marketing plan, so it’s imperative to minimize downtime when you make the switch to WordPress 5. You can do this by following a few simple best practices.
1. Back Up Your Site
Any time you update your website, it’s possible that something could break, causing headaches and lengthy downtime. Having a back-up copy of your website will protect you in the event that something goes awry.
Ideally, you should already be performing regular backups of your site. That way, you can restore your website when something goes wrong. If you don’t know your backup schedule, check with your website service provider.
2. Update PHP
Around the same time WordPress released version 5, version 5.6 of PHP, the scripting language that powers WordPress, reached its end of life. That means security updates are no longer being issued for version 5.6, making websites that still run it a liability.
What’s more, PHP 5.6 is not recommended for use with WordPress 5. As of this writing, WordPress recommends version 7.3 or higher to run most securely and effectively. If you aren’t sure which version of PHP you are using, contact your website hosting provider.
3. Update Your Plugins
Plugins add functionality to WordPress and, as a result, are frequently used by webmasters for their extra features. However, plugins can be created by third parties and sometimes don’t come with frequent updates or tech support. Before you upgrade WordPress on your site, you’ll want to make sure your plugins are compatible with version 5.
Another consideration where plugins are concerned is backwards compatibility. Many plugin creators are ending support for plugins on sites with WordPress 4. If you’re upgrading your plugins but not WordPress itself, you may not be able to use the plugins as they were intended.
4. Make Sure Your Theme Is Compatible
Your theme controls the appearance and design of your WordPress site. As with plugins, third party themes can pose a challenge, and you’ll want to check that yours is compatible with WordPress 5.
5. Decide If You’ll Use the Block Editor or the Classic Editor
Because the block editor is so different from the classic editor, a plugin has been created to allow website managers to use the classic editor with WordPress 5. If you’re not ready to familiarize yourself with the block editor, you can use the classic editor plugin to ease the transition.
6. Upgrade in a Test Environment
The best way to know how your website will behave with WordPress 5 is to create a copy of your site in a test environment, if one is available, and perform the upgrade there. This will allow you to simulate and prepare for any issues that may arise as a result of the update, without causing downtime or compromising your live site.
Preparing Your Business’ Website for WordPress 5
Making big changes to your website can be daunting, and the risk of downtime is not one to be taken lightly. However, the risks of using a dated version of WordPress are greater in the long run. Websites running dated technologies are more vulnerable to data breaches and cyber attacks.
A competent web services provider can help you navigate the upgrade to WordPress 5, minimizing downtime and protecting your website from potential threats. Contact Lieberman Technologies for assistance planning and performing your upgrade.